Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
Beta bersyukur ke hadrat ILAHI kerana dengan izin dari Nya juga, Beta dapat berangkat untuk menzahirkan titah utama di Malaysian Brand Forum 2013 pada pagi ini.
It has been a pleasure for me to address this Malaysian Brand Forum for the past four years and to do so again this year. It is commonly a challenge to speak on similar themes year after year but I always find it stimulating to think of ideas and perspectives to share. This morning, I will explore the notion of nation branding, its importance for the country and its role as a catalyst for change.
2. The importance of branding in today’s real-time, information-rich and inter-connected business world is not a new concept. Competition has reached new heights and consumer choice is vast and varied. E-commerce facilitates faster decision – making, and trade execution and order fulfilment are often only a few seamless mouse clicks away. Brand marketing therefore has not just to make one’s product or service stand out from the crowd but to hover high above it.
3. National branding is not a new concept to Malaysians. Although we were not among the earliest of movers, we nevertheless recognised the benefits and reaped huge rewards with the ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’ tourism campaign that was launched in 1999. This campaign has been spectacularly successful with tourist arrivals and revenues quadrupling and quintupling since the late 1990s. It has won numerous awards for creativity and execution and gone into the annals of advertising. The benefits, however, have been felt not just by the tourism industry. The Malaysia Truly Asia campaign has raised the country’s profile and standing in the international arena by creating and communicating a strong brand that, in turn, has increased equity and value.
4. Given the success that Malaysia has had with branding, coupled with our being in an increasingly influential part of the world, it is no surprise that big things are being forecast for the country. Malaysia currently occupies the 36th spot on the FutureBrands’ 2012-13 Country Brand Index. Like all indices, the Country Brand Index is based on a composite of indicators drawn from the political, legal, social, quality of life, business and cultural aspects. Malaysia is placed third in the list of 15 countries that are expected to be brand powerhouses in the years ahead, and so an expectation for Malaysia to be in the top 25 of the index in the near future is not an unrealistic ambition.
5. While it appears that we are in a sweet spot, we are, in fact, facing a challenging time. This explains why the Government is allocating more attention and resources towards the branding of the nation. This effort is not a small matter but then again neither are the benefits. This is an exercise that must be given the most serious attention. The payoffs from strong nation branding reach into practically every sphere of national and international public life, and not just for the present generation but also for the future. Malaysia’s reputation and brand need to be burnished and promoted at every turn and with the highest priority.
6. Focus should be on supporting current efforts to strengthen Brand Malaysia locally and abroad. As the nation’s brand grows in strength so too do its businesses. Creating brand identity is, of course, not as simple as coming up with a striking logo and catchy tagline or jingle. It is not as easy as coming up with a flashy video and cool copywriting. A brand must be built on sound and solid foundations. If it does not have a strong story content then the best of packaging is meaningless, which is to say branding cannot veil poor products. Brands are only as good as the products and services offered and the organisational and management ecosystems that support and reinforce them.
7. For there to be a strong brand identity, there must be authenticity. Brand experts constantly warn against creating false expectations because consumers are not deceived for long and when they find out the real facts, they tend to voice their disappointment more loudly and hold on to their disappointment longer. This is why it is difficult, if not impossible, to make a person buy a bad product twice.
8. Therefore, in order for there to be brand integrity, the national brand – building exercise should involve the necessary element of creativity strongly supported by professional objectivity. This will allow for the creation of a compelling brand that is capable of evolution with the times.
9. Having said that a nation’s brand should be capable of moving with the times, that is, accommodating change, I would like to take it a step further and say that it is actually capable of stimulating change. This is because image and progress are mutually reinforcing. A nation’s brand can be a reflection not just of its level of development but also of its aspirations. The creation of images and perceptions can result in expectations that, in turn, coalesce energies and drive efforts towards realising them. Malaysia’s Vision 2020, for example, is not an attempt at nation branding per se. It encapsulates the nation’s aspiration for change and progress.
10. In closing, let me say a few words about the Malaysian Brand. Four years ago, in March 2009, I was pleased to launch the National Mark of Malaysian Brand. The National Mark is designed to promote companies that have been awarded the right to use this symbol of excellence, quality and distinction. Today, more than 80 companies proudly display this mark and many more are waiting in the wings to be given the green light. Research shows that the National Mark has positive benefits for the bottom lines of companies and that the decision to apply to be a Malaysian brand is a sound one.
11. This year’s Forum provides a valuable and effective platform for participants, especially SMEs, to share their experiences and information on branding initiatives, besides providing excellent networking opportunities. I understand that among the speakers in this Forum are Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid, more fondly known as Lat, who has become a walking and talking brand in his own right and I mention this with pride as Dato’ Mohd. Nor Khalid is a true son of Perak.
12. If SMEs were important to the economy before, they have now become vital. The Small Medium Enterprise Masterplan launched by the Prime Minister in July last year targets SME contribution to rise from 32 per cent of gross domestic product in 2010 to 41 per cent by 2020. For this to occur, value-added must increase dramatically and the Masterplan envisages business formation to increase by 6 per cent, high-growth and innovative firms by 10 per cent and productivity to double by 2020. These are certainly challenging goals and it is fortunate that SMEs have a strong and helpful partner in the form of SME Corp.
13. In an increasingly competitive global economy, Malaysian companies need to explore and exploit every comparative and competitive advantage available at their disposal. It is not enough merely to survive, they need to lead the way, become a trailblazer, dominate and strive to stay ahead of their competitors. Strong brands will help create an identity for Malaysian products and services in the global market. The growth of more internationally – regarded Malaysian brands will further reinforce Malaysia’s reputation for quality products and strengthen Malaysia’s position in the global marketplace.